Easton Kuboushek (Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)
A global opportunity
February 15, 2023 | Jeff Hutton
Easton Kuboushek would never have imagined his boyhood days spent on a Winneshiek County farm might lead him to more than a dozen countries among five continents. But his dedication to agriculture and a chance to study aquaculture, specifically, will allow him to do just that.
Kuboushek was recently named as one of 10 Nuffield International Farming Scholars for 2023. The designation will allow him to travel around the world on behalf of Iowa farmers and U.S. aquaculture where he will explore the success stories, best practices, technology and regulations that have created huge growth in aquaculture production around the world.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that supports my passion for farmers,” he says.
Kuboushek is a senior account executive with Amplify Association Management, a subsidiary of Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). He leads multiple non-profit trade associations including the Soy Aquaculture Alliance (SAA), the National Chimney Sweep Guild, National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers and supports the New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association.
The Nuffield Scholarship will allow Kuboushek to study global aquaculture, which he hopes will provide him insight and knowledge on how to help expand American aquaculture production through the SAA and contribute to a fresh, sustainable seafood supply chain.
The Nuffield program will cover 14 weeks of travel across five continents and more than a dozen countries.
For Kuboushek, his itinerary, is starting to take shape.
It begins next month in Canada, specifically Vancouver where all of the 2023 Nuffield scholars will meet for a week-long orientation.
“It’s the only opportunity for all the scholars to come together. In addition to program orientation, the conference will cover panels and discussion related to global agriculture, sustainability and the future of farming,” Kuboushek says.
Shortly thereafter, scholars will begin their world travels in earnest.
From May 23 through June 22, Kuboushek will travel to Singapore, Australia, Delaware, the Netherlands and Norway.
This month of travel will be a planned and guided journey for Kuboushek and the other scholars “offering a broader global perspective on farming,” he says.
“My perspective and passion for agriculture started on a small dairy farm and continued to grow through my career at ISA. Now that perspective is expanding to the world and I couldn’t be more excited and grateful.”
Then likely beginning in July, Kuboushek will begin an independent study of aquaculture by traveling to multiple global destinations.
“The independent study allows you to plan your travels around your topic of interest,” he says. “I chose aquaculture given my responsibility with the Soy Aquaculture Alliance. The goal is to understand why the rest of the world is growing so quickly in aquaculture when the U.S. is still importing 90% of its seafood.
“What are the lessons we can learn from a country like Ecuador, which is the size of Colorado, but produces more fish than the entire United States; understanding the aquaculture market internationally and what we can do here domestically to improve production.”
Kuboushek anticipates his independent study will consist of three separate two-week trips:
1) Latin America (likely July) – specifically the Western Coast which would include Ecuador, Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica;
2) Southeast Asia (late August to early September), where 80 percent of the global aquaculture production exists, including stops in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and maybe China;
3) Finally, the last trek will be to Africa (possibly Egypt) and/or locales in the European Union will commence sometime in the fall.
But the world travel is not the only aspect of being a Nuffield scholar.
“A core value of Nuffield International is giving back,” Kuboushek says. “I will be writing a 10,000-word essay on my experiences and the knowledge gained. I want to capture interviews and content in preparing the essay, making it a valuable report.
“There’s a year of travel, developing content, followed by another year of traveling and speaking – it’s a natural alignment with SAA, as I’m serving in my professional capacity and can share my broader experience through that scholarship.”
At the forefront of this opportunity, Kuboushek wants to give back to Iowa soybean farmers.
“I really want Iowa farmers to understand the global perspective of their business,” he says. “It’s so interesting the beans they grow in Iowa are reaching this unique market of aquaculture.
“It seems abstract, but I think it’s fascinating of how the story and path of the soybean from the field in Iowa going to an aquaculture farm on the other side of the world and, in many cases, helping to solve food insecurity, while creating value for the farmer here.”
He says he wants to help farmers understand how far reaching the soybean can be and how significant Iowa is in the development of the aquaculture market.
“Aquaculture is not novel around the world; it’s just novel here in the United States,” he says.
“Seafood is the largest animal protein in the world. There’s a gap in that understanding and I’d like to find a way to artfully tell that story and bring those lessons back to the United States and make it less of a novel idea.”
Since he learned of his Nuffield scholar designation, Kuboushek says he is grateful and overwhelmed at the same time.
“It’s a very humbling opportunity because it’s something I didn’t know about, or necessarily seek out,” he says. “It’s humbling and exciting. I’m looking forward to traveling and really understanding the culture of Nuffield International.”
With less than a month to go, Kuboushek is trying to prep his mindset and his luggage for a worldly adventure.
But until then, “It doesn’t feel real yet.”